With the 49ers having locked up Trent Williams, there are still a few pressing items John Lynch and Co. must address over the next days and weeks.
The San Francisco 49ers no longer have to worry about Cheap San Francisco 49ers Jerseys another team potentially plucking eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams away in NFL free agency this offseason.
While most Niners fans were fast asleep on the West Coast, news broke San Francisco was inking Williams to a massive six-year, $138 million extension, as first reported by ESPN’s Dianna Russini, which included $55.1 million guaranteed.
In addition to that deal, the 49ers were closing in on signing veteran center Alex Mack, as reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, thereby solving what was an issue last year in the wake of fellow center Weston Richburg’s year-long absence after going down with a serious knee injury late in 2019.
With Richburg expected to be let go and/or retire this offseason, the Niners have mostly solved their offensive line concerns heading towards April’s NFL Draft.
Yet there remains work to be done.
The Williams and Mack deals will cut into what remains of San Francisco’s cap space — $20.5 million, according to Over the Cap, which doesn’t include the Williams and Mack contracts — and in the wake of re-signing fullback Kyle Juszczyk and cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley.
Those roster moves help, but what else will general manager John Lynch and his staff have to do between now and the draft?
49ers still need cornerback, wide receiver depth
After all but bidding farewell to cornerback Richard Sherman and watching fellow corner Ahkello Witherspoon sign with the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers still must round out their cornerback depth chart.
Nickel corner K’Waun Williams remains a high priority, especially with slot-coverage guys being plucked away elsewhere on the free-agent market. It’s possible the Niners address this need in the draft. But with many a young defensive back struggling in the transition from the collegiate ranks to the pros, going with a rookie starter in this potential void carries some risks. True, San Francisco could insert Moseley at the nickel spot, but that would leave open a need on the boundary.
And we’d be back to the initial problem of finding a third quality starter.
At wide receiver, the 49ers lost their No. 3 player, Kendrick Bourne, in a deal with the New England Patriots. While the Niners already have their top-two wideouts in Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel lined up, the depth behind them remains questionable.
Should San Francisco spend little attention here, it’s possible Richie James receives extra usage in 2021, yet the depth still remains an issue.
Even though the 2021 draft is deep with wide receiver talent, it still wouldn’t be overly shocking to see head coach Kyle Shanahan want an experienced wideout to join the fray, if nothing else but to bolster the competition during training camp.
49ers must still look hard at pass-rushing needs
One of the other key moves the 49ers engineered was to restructure EDGE Dee Ford’s contract, reworking it into a two-year deal worth $24 million.
Ford, who missed all but one game in 2020 with back problems, isn’t guaranteed to be fully healthy by the start of the upcoming season. And despite the Niners onboarding former Los Angeles Rams EDGE Samson Ebukam, he figures to merely be a supplementary pass-rusher, not someone who can regularly play alongside Pro Bowl EDGE Nick Bosa on an every-down basis.
The EDGE free-agent class remains somewhat deep despite a flurry of teams making additions for some of the high-profile players. But pass-rushers rarely come cheap, meaning it wouldn’t be overly shocking to see San Francisco take a gamble on another EDGE on draft day.
Even though the bulk of outside pass-rushers in the draft have some sort of major question mark, and there’s no clear-cut stud available like there was with Bosa back in 2019.
Regardless, getting a pass-rusher in one form or another is still something the 49ers must look hard at.